So lately I've been busy working with a number of prospects and clients. Many of the firms we work with are larger, and while we aren't tiny we aren't huge either. This means that one of our biz dev folks works with the "client" to develop a contract. I put "client" in quotes because it turns out most of these clients have several different people responsible for different parts of the agreement, and they often work at cross purposes to themselves and to the "vendor" (namely, me).
So far my favorite example is a contracting officer for a large firm who, after having the total price estimate from our team and the buyer for over three weeks decided that our price was 3% over budget and that we should extend a 5% discount to the buyer. Note that the buyer did not ask for this discount, and was unaware of any cap on his budget. After a call to the buyer, we soon proceeded to conclude the deal at the original price. The contracting officer wasn't adding any value, in fact merely trying to demonstrate that he had (he thought) some power in the negotiation.
In a single sale we may provide software, services and software maintenance, we often deal with a key user buyer who agrees to the deal, then is almost relegated to the sidelines for the rest of the negotiation. The IT folks come in and place their language and requirements on the deal. That's to be expected with software, but they often have requirements or conditions that were not included in discussions with the key user, and may differ. Then, the legal and contracting team enters the picture. The legal guys want to have the "vendor" - love that term when we are all supposed to be partners - bear all of the risk, and the buyer none of the risk. I understand that is their job, but some give and take would be appreciated. The contracting guys seem to want only to grind down the vendor and get the lowest possible price.
I can tell you from experience that this is when I bring the key user buyer back into the picture. If the customer only wants to measure on contract and price, we can do that, but it removes any rationale for my team to work beyond the stated intents of the contract. Getting the lowest possible price may be optimal for the contracting officer, but is it really beneficial for the buyer to face a vendor that is not willing to do anything more than absolutely necessary? I understand dividing these responsibilities but I'd really like to see the key user buyer more involved and given more leeway in negotiations, rather than simply excuse themselves from the discussion. I wonder how the buyers would feel knowing that each of these other groups are slowly boxing in the "vendor" and placing ever more onerous conditions on the seller, which is in turn making the vendor less likely to extend anything beyond what is required?
I get that each group or organization is trying to optimize its returns, but in total the relationship is damaged.